We adopted our daughter Madelyn from China 7 months ago. She is four years old. Among other things, we are teaching her how to be polite, saying things like, “thank you,” “please,” and “you’re welcome.” Like all human beings, Madelyn “toots.” It’s a gaseous expression that crosses all international lines. No, China toots (we humorously call “Choots”) don’t smell any better or worse than American ones. When she toots, we have taught her to simply say, “excuse me.”
What has been interesting is to notice that Madelyn thinks she needs to say “excuse me” for all her toots, even the ones that make no sound nor give a smell. So, every so often, at random, we will hear Madelyn say “excuse me” for no apparent reason. Though we are helping her to better know the ins and outs of when to say “excuse me,” she is so genuine and desires to be faithful to the point that she won’t even let a silent, non-odorous toot go by without the response, “excuse me.” No one would know that anything ever happened except for the moment she says, “excuse me.”
In 1 John 1:9, we read “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
For most people, they interpret this passage to be directed towards believers. Therefore, they believe a Christian needs to still confess their sins so that they can be restored to a state and position of righteousness with God. In their mind, if you don’t confess, you could be in a mess.
Yet, I don’t believe this passage is directed towards believers, but rather to the Gnostic unbelievers the entire book addresses. On the cross, all our sins past, present, and future are put to death, and the moment you receive what Jesus did on the cross for your behalf, that forgiveness and righteousness become yours, always. Asking God to forgive you (as a Christian) is like asking Him to do something He has already done. For the Christian, God desires our belief and trust in His work on the cross for our lives, not on our ability to beg Him to forgive us every time we hiccup. Forgiveness has already taken place, it becomes applied to our lives the moment we believe. You don’t ask for what you believe you already have. God wants our trust, not our confession tablets.
Does our continued sin grieve the Holy Spirit? Yes. Remove our righteousness, add unforgiven sin to our record, or distance us from God? No. There is a big difference between agreeing with God that we have sinned and confessing it. In fact, the job of the Holy Spirit in the Christian’s life isn’t to convict us of our sin, but rather to convince us of our righteousness in Christ.
But if you do believe 1 John 1:9 is for believers, then believe it all the way! Like Madelyn’s understanding of saying “excuse me” every time she toots, every time you make a mistake, have an impure thought, or feel anything bad towards another, you had better be confessing it. When you are in the mall and you lust at an attractive person, better get confessing. When you are driving and someone cuts you off, better get confessing. When you have a feeling of hatred towards a person, better get confessing. When you are coveting another person’s stuff, better get confessing. When you are playing a sport and you want revenge, better get confessing. When you wish something negative towards your boss, better get confessing. Every secret thought, word, or deed.
If you think about it, there won’t be many moments you have with nothing to confess. But, if you are going to believe and teach 1 John 1:9 is for the Christian, you need to believe it all the way. Don’t lack authenticity, don’t fall short of integrity, make sure you are doing exactly what it says, because if you don’t, according to your own belief, righteousness will always allude you. And you never know, that one sin you forgot or forget to confess might be the one of which God says at your interview for heaven, “Excuse me, you missed one… hate it for ya”